Caldecott Corner: Wintery Miscellany

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In honor of the snow Chicago is “enjoying,” I found some Winter-related Caldecott-winning books this month at my local library.

A Picture of Winter

The Caldecott-winning illustrations in The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats are simple, as is the story. A young boy awakes one winter day to find the world covered in snow, and adventure waiting. But while the illustrations are simple, they are also colorful and engaging. I love this story and highly recommend it.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr, tells the story of a child going “owling” with her father. The Caldecott-winning illustrations are realistic but muted, matching the tender quiet of a wintery, New England night. I don’t love the story, but it is a quaint account of going into nature.

The Changing Seasons

In The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, autumn changes into winter, and the animals all prepare for the big snow. The tone of writing is very gentle; the illustrations are highly realistic and appropriate, with the pages alternating between careful, detailed pencil drawings and soft watercolors. I like the pace of the story of coming winter and appreciate the animals detailed in its illustrations.

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, tells the story of the postman, a farmer, a policeman, and the children over the course of a winter using paintings and select colors. I liked the story and I enjoyed the painted illustrations, but I was disappointed in some respects.

First, the title comes from a nice poem on a page that isn’t illustrated. I also found White Snow, Bright Snow to be ugly in layout, with bold, blocky letters that really detracted from the illustrations and the story. Finally, White Snow, Bright Snow didn’t have enough illustrations; there was too much heavy text for each illustration. Simply changing the font face could have improved it and made it feel less text heavy. Maybe it’s been reissued with a different font face (the copy I read was the original 1947 publication). It’s quite sad that the format makes this otherwise interesting, lovely illustrated book so unattractive!

Out of the Ordinary

In Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida, a young Mexican girl has her first polaca to celebrate Christmas. Exquisite Caldecott-winning pencil illustrations help tell this different-paced Christmas story.

Mary Azarain’s beautiful hand-colored woodcuts illustrate Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, a nonfiction biography picture book of the world’s number one expert in snow. From his childhood, Willie Bentley was fascinated by the infinite variety of snowflakes, and using a camera-microscope, he began photographing the minute ice crystals, trying to find repetition; he never found a repeated snowflake. Information boxes line the margins of this almost poetic story. I highly recommend reading about “Snowflake Bentley.”

Have you read these Caldecott award-winning books? What did you think of them?

Reviewed on December 14, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I found this a very interesting round-up! How many winter-themed Caldecott winners there have been, how the illustrations have changed over the years… I found your assessment of White Snow Bright Snow, which I have not seen myself, very interesting. I think it’s safe to say it would not be a winner these days!

  • Lisa, I actually really enjoyed the illustrations of White Snow Bright Snow: I think the illustrations were worthy of an award to some extent. It was just the layout that irked me. I wonder if designers would do it differently today, but I don’t know.

    I have read a pretty awful “winner” recently. It makes me glad it’s not the 1930s.

  • I love your article! May I have permission to use it in our homeschool newsletter?
    Kathryn Shaffer

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